The government of North Korea has once again fired short-range ballistic missiles into the sea as a form of protest against new United Nations sanctions against Pyongyang and a large-scale military training exercise being conducted by American and South Korean troops.
The missiles in question are believed to be Scud series missiles, South Korea’s Defense Ministry announced following the launch. Pyongyang fired two missiles over the sea, apparently from coastal Wonsan city, which flew about 500 kilometers before splashing down, sinking. The Japanese government has lodged a formal complaint, as North Korea’s longer-range missiles are capable of hitting Japanese territory, Reuters notes.
This is the second such missile launch this month. On March 3, the South Korean government confirmed that North Korea shot up to six unidentified “projectiles,” believed to be short-range rockets or missiles, into the East Sea. While the launches did not cause any damage, South Korea considers these incidents “provocations” intended to express an interest in attacking enemies of Pyongyang more directly. In February, following the launch of a long-range rocket allegedly used to lodge a satellite into orbit, dictator Kim Jong-un ordered the military to prepare more rocket launches of a similar nature.
This month, Kim reportedly ordered the nation’s complete nuclear arsenal on “standby” before threatening a “pre-emptive nuclear strike of justice” on the United States. “The indiscriminate nuclear strike … will clearly show those keen on aggression and war, the military mettle of (North Korea),” North Korea’s government said in a statement posted through the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
Two days later, KCNA announced that Kim Jong-un had attended a ceremony celebrating the production of a miniaturized nuclear warhead, allowing Pyongyang to place its nuclear weapons on long-range missiles. As the KCNA report and accompanying photo are the only evidence proving this claim, it is unclear whether North Korea does possess this technology.
In January, North Korea announced it had conducted a successful test of a hydrogen bomb, a claim widely dismissed by nuclear scientists due to the small scale of the quake produced by the blast.
Following the latest round of missile shootings, North Korea also announced on Thursday it would nullify all economic agreements with South Korea and sell off all South Korean property remaining in the North. “We will continuously take the planned special measures for hastening the miserable end of the Park Geun-hye group of traitors by dealing fatal political, military and economic blows to it,” a North Korean government spokesman said.
These provocations appear to be aimed at protesting ongoing war games in the region by a joint American-South Korean contingent of 300,000 soldiers, 17,000 of whom are American. The war games, dubbed Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, are the largest of their kind in history and force participants to enact a simulation in which the Kim regime has collapsed and American and South Korean troops must invade the country and restore order.
“The U.S. imperialists are warmongers being hell-bent on military drills such as missile launch after deploying a large number of modern lethal weapons and equipment in every part of the world,” an article in Rodong Sinmun, North Korea’s state newspaper, alleged Thursday. On Thursday, the KCNA also threatened to “reduce all bases and strongholds of the U.S. and south Korean warmongers … into ashes in a moment.”
The international community has, with uncommon unanimity, condemned North Korea’s threats to use nuclear weapons on the United States. “I’d say the young man needs to pay more attention to the North Korean people and taking care of them, than in pursuing these sorts of reckless capabilities,” U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said of Kim on Wednesday.
In a nationally televised speech, South Korean President Park Geun-hye called for support for her government against the North. “Now is the time when national unity is important more than ever,” she said, citing not just threats, but evidence of cyber-attacks on South Korean officials and public transportation intended to disrupt South Korean life.
Even nations that have traditionally opposed sanctions against North Korea are condemning its increasingly belligerent attitude towards the rest of the world. The Chinese government, which approved the latest round of UN sanctions against Pyongyang, called the current situation on the peninsula “highly sensitive,” with Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei calling for “all relevant parties” to “stop these provocative words and actions.”
The government of Russia has issued a statement warning that North Korea’s behavior could trigger an invasion by international powers. Calling the nuclear threats against the United States “absolutely impermissible,” a statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry asserted that “Pyongyang should be aware of the fact that in this way the DPRK will become fully opposed to the international community and will create international legal grounds for using military force against itself.”